NEW DELHI: Authorities in India’s smog-ridden capital New Delhi extended an emergency school closure for a week on Sunday, with no sign of improvement in the mega city’s suffocating pollution levels.
Every autumn, New Delhi is blanketed by acrid smog, which farmers in neighboring agrarian states blame mainly on stubble burning.
The city is regularly ranked among the most polluted cities on the planet, and its annual smog is responsible for hundreds of thousands of premature deaths each year.
“As pollution levels remain high, primary schools in Delhi will remain closed till November 10,” Delhi state education minister Atishi posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.
High schools “are getting the option to move to online classes,” added Atishi, who uses only one name, after days of high pollution levels.
India’s capital – which has a population of 30 million – was again ranked as the world’s most polluted city on Sunday, according to monitoring firm IQAir.
Every year, the state of Delhi imposes restrictions on construction activities and orders certain vehicles off the roads when pollution reaches serious levels.
But critics say governments are deliberately ignoring agriculture as the primary source of the public health crisis.
Air pollution in India’s New Delhi has become “severe”, with some schools closed
Farmers in neighboring states are a powerful voting lobby and elected leaders have long resisted calls to impose stiff fines and other punitive measures for their actions.
New Delhi will host the Cricket World Cup match between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh on Monday.
However, both teams have canceled scheduled pre-match training sessions in recent days due to health risks from the smog.
High smog levels are expected to persist for several more weeks.
Levels of the most dangerous PM2.5 particles – so small they can enter the bloodstream – reached 570 micrograms per cubic meter on Sunday, nearly 40 times the daily maximum recommended by the World Health Organization, according to IQAir.
A 2020 Lancet study attributed 1.67 million deaths to air pollution in India last year, including nearly 17,500 in the capital.
According to an August report by the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute, the average city resident could die nearly 12 years earlier than expected due to air pollution.
India is heavily dependent on polluting coal for power and has resisted calls to phase it out, with its per capita coal emissions rising 29 percent over the past seven years.
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